Failure to Pay Child Support in Chicago
Although there has been a large amount of press over the past few years about "deadbeats" who fail to pay their child support, the problem of unpaid child support continues in Illinois and nationwide. Fortunately, parents owed child support that has not been paid have a variety of tools at his or her disposal to obtain the needed support that is already owed. For parents behind in their support, it is also important to understand these tools that can be used.
The most common proceeding against a parent who fails to pay his or her child support is a Petition for Rule to Show Cause. In this petition, the parent who is owed support requests that the "obligor" show the court why he or she should not be held in contempt for their failure to pay child support. Assuming that the parent cannot show any reason why they have not been paying child support, our courts will generally enter an order of contempt. The contempt of court can be purged (removed) by the obligor making accelerated child support payments. The court also has the power to award attorney's fees and most courts are happy to oblige.
There are not many defenses for an obligor to defend against nonpayment of child support. If an obligor became unemployed it was his or her obligation to file a motion with the court to reduce their child support obligation until they found new employment. Another common problem is where an obligor made cash child support payments, and there is no record of these payments. Because it is the obligation of the parent who pays child support to prove that he or she have made the payments, it is insufficient to argue that the payments were made in cash (unless the other parent acknowledges that the payments were made).
When a court orders an obligor to make payments on past due child support, they will often order a large down payment on the balance due within a short period of time and an accelerated payment schedule on the balance. For many parents who are owed child support, this can be unsatisfactory and frustrating. In some cases tens of thousands of dollars can be owed and a more immediate payment of the total amount due is desired. Yet even if a court does not order a complete immediate repayment on the total amount due, the parent who is owed the obligation of support should make sure their attorney obtains a judgment for any amounts that are to be repaid in the future. Attorneys have a wide array of legal mechanisms at their disposal to enforce a judgment, and these should be used.
What about the parent who owes an obligation of support and is unemployed? Although these can be difficult situations, a party should make sure they: (a) have the court order that the obligor maintain a job diary, and this should be reviewed meticulously at the next court date with the judge, (b) order the obligor to participate in a government sponsored job placement service, and (c) have that parent complete a financial disclosure statement to be reviewed by the court and the attorneys involved (it is often interesting to see how unemployed persons manage to survive for month on end when they are allegedly not working at any job).
Last, an underused mechanism that was added to our statute allows the court to suspend an obligor's driver's license if there is a child support arrearage in excess of 90 days of support. We have found that this is the most useful tactic, in that it tends to compel obligors to "work a little harder" to find the money needed to pay off the child support arrears.
Contact an experienced Attorney to help you
For more information about options to obtain child support for your children, contact Chicago Divorce Attorney M. Scott Gorden at 312.360.0250 or 847.329.0101